Posted by: shrewspeaks | October 24, 2007

To Kick Things Off…Newport: A Lively Experiment


From Rockwell Stensrud Site

Newport, Rhode Island, is well-known today as a popular resort, but its rich and varied history stretches back nearly 400 years. In NEWPORT: A Lively Experiment 1639 – 1969 (Redwood Library and Athenaeum; April 2007; Hardcover; 544 pages; $49.95), author Rockwell Stensrud reveals a Newport that is far more important than the retreat for the wealthy that many know it as today. In the 1600s, he writes, “a few towns played dominant roles in defining the diverse character of the territory that would become the United States of America.” Newport, Rhode Island, was one of those towns.

Stensrud’s narrative history of Newport—the first book of its kind—examines the many factors that made it an important town in the early colonial era and continues to make it a historically important community today. From the time Newport was founded by men and women banished by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, its independent and liberal character has touched countless aspects of our nation’s development.

“The case can be made, and easily defended, that if a few brave men and women in Newport in the middle of the seventeenth century had not held out stubbornly and courageously for freedom of conscience, America might not have had the chance to flourish as it has over time,” Stensrud writes. “What Newport and Rhode Island brought about was nothing short of revolutionary in the ideas of how individuals and their government should interact. Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, led the way in the quest for religious freedom in the colonies… What stands out is how absolutely radical, how new, this idea was.”

In this wide-ranging book, spanning 330 years, Stensrud covers the political, social, and cultural importance of this city of 26,000 people. The book’s narrative includes profiles of the city’s founders (including little-known minister Dr. John Clarke, who secured Newport’s singular religious freedom in the colonies through a charter signed by King Charles II), its institutions, and great moments over the centuries. Accompanied by sidebars and over 200 full-color and black-and-white images, NEWPORT: A Lively Experiment, 1639-1969 brings the story of this spirited city to life.

Stensrud clearly delineates Newport in each century of its existence. Seventeenth century Newport was defined by its insistence on religious freedom; eighteenth century Newport was characterized by its international trading status; nineteenth century Newport was shaped by its active summer society and the many mansions built by the powerful and wealthy; and the twentieth century brought about a renaissance in the spheres of the arts and architecture, as well as a renewed sense of civic involvement as many people worked to preserve their history while expanding the economy. In each era, the city’s seaport, buildings, and independent streak played a vital role in its development and resurgence.

And now? “Newport in the twenty-first century is an international city, visited yearly by some three million visitors from around the world,” Stensrud writes. “Newport offers living history, encapsulating every phase of America’s growth, and in that presentation it is unlike any other city in the nation.”

NEWPORT: A Lively Experiment 1639 – 1969 is a rich, detailed history of Newport that reveals the character of a small New England city with major historical significance.

This seems like the perfect first reading to prepare for our trip.

Amazon Link:



  1. I am so excited! And if I look close enough, I think my camera is drooling. Need to teach it some manners.

    Ooh, Newport is the ‘retreat for the wealthy!’ And the wealthy drink wine, don’t they?

  2. Can we drink wine AND take pictures. The vinyard looks beautiful.

    I didn’t know Newport was such a fancy place.

    Thanks for the book referral Shrew.

  3. We have to do the Cliff Walk.

  4. Newport is totally fancy shmancy. In fact, they have tours of all the fancy shmancy mansions.

  5. This is going to be fun!

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